Wild ele­phants on the brink - ex­perts

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

KASANE — African ele­phants could be ex­tinct in the wild within a few decades, ex­perts warned at a ma­jor con­ser­va­tion sum­mit in Botswana that high­lighted an alarm­ing decline in num­bers due to poach­ing for ivory.

The Africa Ele­phant Sum­mit, held at a tourist re­sort in Kasane, gath­ered del­e­gates from about 20 coun­tries across Europe, Africa and Asia, in­clud­ing China — which is ac­cused of fu­elling the il­le­gal poach­ing trade.

“This species could be ex­tinct in our life­time, within one or two decades, if the cur­rent trend con­tin­ues,” Dune Ives, se­nior re­searcher at Vul­can, a phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tion run by US bil­lion­aire Paul Allen, said.

“In five years we may have lost the op­por­tu­nity to save this mag­nif­i­cent and iconic an­i­mal.”

The con­fer­ence heard lat­est fig­ures from the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture, which re­ported that the African ele­phant pop­u­la­tion had dropped from 550 000 in 2006 to 470 000 in 2013.

East Africa has seen the worst decline, from 150 000 to about 100 000.

“The over­all ob­jec­tive of this meet­ing is to se­cure com­mit­ments at the high­est po­lit­i­cal level to ef­fec­tively pro­tect the ele­phants and sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the trends of killings of ele­phants,” said Elias Magosi, from the Botswanan en­vi­ron­ment min­istry.

“The cur­rent killing rate is un­sus­tain­able and the pop­u­la­tion of African ele­phants is in dan­ger.”

Ele­phant hunt­ing is of­ten or­gan­ised by in­ter­na­tional crim­i­nal net­works to sup­ply the il­le­gal ivory mar­ket, mainly in Asia, with some prof­its thought to fund re­gional con­flicts and mil­i­tants.

“Th­ese syn­di­cates take ad­van­tage of con­flicts, so­cial un­rest, poor gov­er­nance,” Mr Magosi said.

Ivory trad­ing routes TRAF­FIC, the wildlife trade mon­i­tor­ing group, said ivory trad­ing routes demon­strated the flow from Kenya and Tan­za­nia to tran­sit coun­tries in­clud­ing Viet­nam and Philip­pines, be­fore go­ing on fi­nal mar­kets in China and Thai­land.

There, the ivory is sculpted into jew­ellery or art pieces that are prized by the wealthy.

“Thai­land is still a coun­try of great con­cern,” Tom Mil­liken of TRAF­FIC said.

“(But) China is the most im­por­tant coun­try that we are deal­ing with in the world with re­spect to il­le­gal ivory trade.”

Tshekedi Khama, Botswanan min­is­ter of tourism and wildlife, also railed against China, say­ing:

“Whether we like it or not, the de­ter­min­ing fact and the end re­sult is to­tally in the hands of China.”

Par­tic­i­pants told AFP that dur­ing a closed dis­cus­sion at the con­fer­ence, a Chi­nese del­e­gate com­plained that the coun­try was be­ing un­fairly tar­geted and should be con­sid­ered an ally in fight to save the ele­phant.

The del­e­gate said China funds anti-poach­ing ef­forts in Africa and is strength­en­ing leg­is­la­tion.

The con­fer­ence fol­lows up a 2013 meet­ing when 30 coun­tries adopted a set of ur­gent con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, in­clud­ing a call to unite against poach­ing and for im­proved crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion.

“We need a lot of col­lab­o­ra­tion,” said Kelly Lan­den from Ele­phants With­out Bor­ders.

“Ele­phant are cross­ing fron­tiers and mov­ing from safe ar­eas to poach­ing ar­eas. This need to be ad­dressed. But we are mov­ing in the right way.”

Last Wed­nes­day, the Con­fer­ence on Il­le­gal Wildlife Trade (IWT) will also meet in Kasane to fo­cus on the traf­fick­ing of all threat­ened species — an il­le­gal trade worth $19 bil­lion a year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fund for An­i­mal Wel­fare.

Ivory is re­port­edly bought at $100 ( M1 087) per kilo­gramme from poach­ers, and sold for $2 100 in China.

Ju­lian Blanc, an ele­phant spe­cial­ist for the Con­ven­tion of In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species (CITES), said the link be­tween poverty in Africa and poach­ing high­lighted one way to tackle the il­le­gal killing of ele­phants.

“We have mon­i­tored a di­rect cor­re­la­tion be­tween hu­man in­fant mor­tal­ity (a mea­sure of poverty) at dis­trict level and lev­els of poach­ing,” he said.

“In places where there is high level of in­fant mor­tal­ity and poverty, we mon­i­tored the high­est level of ele­phant poach­ing... so ad­dress­ing poverty is a sig­nif­i­cant com­po­nent of ele­phant con­ser­va­tion.” — AFP DAKAR — A spe­cial court in Sene­gal sen­tenced the son of for­mer pres­i­dent Ab­doulaye Wade on Mon­day to six years in pri­son for cor­rup­tion and or­dered him to pay a 138 bil­lion CFA franc ($2 47 bil­lion) fine, dash­ing his hopes of com­pet­ing in elec­tions due in 2017.

Karim Wade, in detention since April 2013, was cho­sen by the main op­po­si­tion party, the Sene­galese Demo­cratic Party (SDP), as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date on Satur­day, rais­ing the stakes ahead of the ver­dict. He de­nies any wrong­do­ing.

“The crime of il­licit en­rich­ment be­ing proven, Karim Wade: six years in pri­son and a fine of 138 bil­lion CFA francs,” judge Henri Gre­goire Diop said in the rul­ing, adding that Mr Wade had hid­den away funds in off­shore com­pa­nies in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and Panama.

Op­po­si­tion sup­port­ers in­side the court­room protested loudly af­ter the ver­dict. “I no longer want to be Sene­galese,” shouted one woman. “This ver­dict is shame­ful.”

Karim (46) did not at­tend the fi­nal ses­sion of the trial and his fa­ther Ab­doulaye Wade left with­out mak­ing any com­ment to the me­dia. Karim and his lawyers have boy­cotted the end of the trial af­ter ac­cus­ing judge Diop of bias, some­thing he strongly de­nies.

The streets of Dakar were calm im­me­di­ately af­ter the trial amid a heavy po­lice pres­ence to counter pos­si­ble protests.

Karim Wade, who staged a four­day hunger strike in Jan­uary to protest over the con­di­tions of his detention, has re­peat­edly said he is the vic­tim of a po­lit­i­cal witch hunt, some­thing the gov­ern­ment strongly de­nies. — Reuters.

Rangers from the Kenya Wildlife Ser­vice set fire to 15 tonnes of ele­phant tusks dur­ing an anti-poach­ing cer­e­mony in Nairobi, Kenya on 3 March.

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